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Abusive

Steve Jobs was an asshole. That seems to be the overwhelming conclusion of anyone who read the biography. Genius for sure, but also not very nice and a fairly tortured soul. I used to worry that people’s takeaway from the Jobs era was that managing by being a massive jerk was the way to go, but I actually think we are past that … Anyway, that’s all a long-winded intro to this paragraph about Jobs that I would have agreed with 8 months ago (but still think is well said):

The biggest thing that bothers me about the “Cult of Jobs” is that people often seem to mistake the unfortunate, frequently counterproductive, side effects of the personality that made him great for the very cause of his greatness. Steve has long been, and always will be, one of my heroes, but I really worry that an entire generation of entrepreneurs is learning the folkloric lesson that the secret to success is to be a mercurial asshole who abuses everyone and listens to no one. There’s a reason people like Steve start successful companies: because they believe in themselves, envision their success unwaveringly, and don’t compromise. But there can be a dark side to that fanatical self belief: a disdain for the ideas of others. I think there are a lot of reasons for Steve’s late-in-life success at Apple, but I suspect one of the biggest is that he finally managed to surround himself with brilliant people (like Chiat Day’s Lee Clow) who knew how to handle him, curb his worst tendencies, and present important ideas to him in a way that he would accept.

February 16, 2012 // This post is about: , ,

Comments

  • Ric says:

    After reading the Isaacson’s book I wondered whether I would have been such a huge Mac fan & user if I had known what an asshole Jobs was. I certainly worked for one or two people, way back when I had real jobs, who subscribed to that type of management style (they were talented & successful people though without quite having the ‘genius’ factor) & I walked away from nice gigs as a result, as opposed to learning to develop the patience to deal with them. And yet I also I’ve wondered if that type of behavior just doesn’t come with the territory of being a visionary & ‘genius’. I had the honor of photographing Lee Clow’s acceptance of Steve Jobs’ induction into the One Club Hall of Fame last month & Lee told some stories about how Steve had always been right in a lot of the final say on what ran & what didn’t. He was smart enough to hire & surround himself with brilliant people — people often with more ‘genius’ than he had in their particular skill set. It takes a lot of determination to ignore the naysayers — to have been so publicly humiliated in being fired from his own company, only to come back & make it better boggles the mind in terms of considering the self-confidence that took. The downside was that he wasn’t smart enough to not ignore the doctors who most likely could have saved him. There will never be an easy answer to this issue. And, yes, unfortunately some will take his personality as an excuse to copy his behavior — but hopefully there will be just as many who learn the lesson & take the opposite course. But no matter, I doubt there will be any other like him in our time, or for a long time after.

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